Is There Room at the Table for the Fake Followers Among Us?

Buy Followers!

One of many robo-concierges polluting Twitter and willing to assist with your shallow self-image needs.

My favorite piece of journalism so far this year was just published January 27th over at the New York Times and struck a nerve in a number of places. In an epic-length article entitled “The Follower Factory”, the NYT plumbed the wobbly world of Twitter and those peculiar, insecure users who boost their Follower head count by paying a company actual money to bless them with hundreds of thousands of automated “bot” accounts that pretend they’re fans clinging on to their every tweet, for the purpose of making the paying customers look more popular. Some are piecemeal accounts, with profiles barely filled out. Quite a few are the product of surface-level identity theft, cribbing photos and usernames but with a character altered to make it unique (relatively speaking). They don’t praise you, go forth in your name, act as your “street team”, or interact with you or other humans in any meaningful way. They just Follow. They sit there, shut up, and act like you rule.

Companies such as Devumi cheerfully offer low-price options for ordinary web-surfing rabble like me, but they also bank some major cash selling bot followings by the hundreds of thousands to B-list celebrities, politicians, creators, reality TV dwellers, and others at varying levels of fame. The NYT named a few names I recognize — actor John Leguizamo, Chef Michael Symon, onetime MST3K guest star Kathy Ireland, and film critic Richard Roeper, whose Chicago Sun-Times reviews have been suspended pending their internal review. Of those who responded to requests for comment, a few buyers insisted it wasn’t them personally pushing the buttons, but an assistant or social media manager who bought a hollow audience on their behalf for PR strategy or whatever. Whether their deflections are true or not, boosts of fake fame are kind of sad. Granted, some personalities receive perks and bonuses from their corporate overlords based on the looks of their social media metrics, which means a return on their invidious investment is entirely possible. To them I imagine it’s all part of the Game.

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Our 2004 Road Trip, Part 8 of 10: A Mere Taste of Canada

Canada!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Once upon a time in 2004, Anne and I got married and had a honeymoon! A week later, we (and my son) embarked on our fifth annual road trip: a drive northeast from Indianapolis up to see the watery wonders of Niagara Falls and its adjacent tourist traps.

Sometimes here on MCC I don’t come out and tell you when I’m the bad guy of a given entry. I prefer to leave those realizations and judgments for You, the Viewers at Home, either to catch or to overlook on your own. Anne and I made our peace with the Canada incident long ago, but it’ll never be one of my favorites.

In all our travels throughout the United States, we’ve left the country exactly once. This is the story of that one time. Between the communication breakdown, the part where I pulled a Homer Simpson, and the omen of car problems to come, it was not our best day. But at least I got some peanut brittle out of it.

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Five Tracks That Got Me Through Young Stupid Adulthood

alternative rock audiocassettes

Yep. Those are cassettes. This is how old I am.

If I learned anything after the fact from Buffy‘s depressing sixth season, it’s that our early 20s is when we humans are prone to committing our worst mistakes, making our stupidest decisions, missing our best opportunities, undergoing our darkest times, and discovering all the best reasons to fear and loathe ourselves. For many people those were also hallmarks of their teenage years, but I was a late starter on the journey to self-flagellation.

A childhood in which I was raised to “find my own path” (read: wander blindly through life’s shadowy forests without a tour guide or even a working flashlight) left me with very few tools for suffering the worst trials and shouldering the heaviest burdens, too many of which I brought on myself. By age thirty a series of improbable coincidences and extensive rethinking sessions had led me at long last to an illuminated trail that’s taken me toward much more reliable means and sources of support and encouragement than I ever had during my extended, two-time college-dropout phase.

Before I walked that way, all I had was music.

Of all the hundreds of songs that have caught my attention throughout my life, five in particular stand out as rare instances in which I was moved by music, moments of lyrical lucidity and emotional truth that resonated deep down in that mushy core whose existence the common guy denies, moments I returned to again and again for comfort, advice, consolation, deep thoughts, and/or a boost of spirit. These were five solid shots struck at the foundation of the oddly designed structure that passes for my life.

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Brief Response to Another Day of Repetitive Social Media Chatter

Of all the possible ways to spend the week leading up to the three-day commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ Our Savior, I’m pretty sure that one of the most counterproductive, least evangelistic options at our disposal is engaging in messy, protracted fight scenes (whether amongst ourselves or with others) for the purpose of defending the position that believers who follow the Lord’s tenets to the letter should be rewarded with government-approved perks for this accomplishment, and that those who don’t, shouldn’t.

I could be wrong. Maybe there are worse ways to count down to Easter. I’d prefer to eschew those, too.

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